Government needs a more robust response to relieve its nationals in hurricane-torn islands

Dear Editor,

It is with increasing worry that I read the story in the September 18 issue of the Stabroek News captioned ‘Hurricane-hit Guyanese in BVI face woes’.

The story recounts the visit of Guyana government officials to hurricane ravaged territories including the British Virgin Islands, Antigua and Barbuda, and Saint Martin. They were there to assess the needs of Guyanese displaced after Irma’s deadly rampage two weeks ago.

From the story, the team seemed ill equipped to provide Guyanese nationals with concrete details of government’s relief plans for them.

Other Caricom member states including Barbados, Jamaica, Cayman Islands, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Dominica, and Trinidad and Tobago are well on their way to either repatriating, assisting with repatriating or sending substantial relief aid to assist with post-hurricane recoveries.

I am aware that government has already allocated US$ 50,000 to the regional disaster response mechanism, while it awaits the findings of a needs assessment.

That allocation, especially juxtaposed with the large number of Guyanese nationals residing in those hurricane torn islands, I daresay, is woefully inadequate. Dominica’s initial response was $2.9 million.

I am concerned that the Government of Guyana has not moved with a greater sense of urgency to relieve the suffering of their nationals living in the hurricane ravaged states, some of whom are living in shelters that themselves sustained significant hurricane damage.

When other member states are telling their nationals to just turn up at airports with identification and travel documents at specific times to be repatriated, Guyana is now sending a needs assessment team without a concrete plan.

I would have anticipated that Cabinet would already have met, not only to talk about the initial $50,000 donation, but also a raft of measures and mechanisms to relieve the desperate circumstances of our nationals in the affected islands.

This is a particularly active hurricane season; the Government of Guyana needs a more robust response.

Yours faithfully,

(Name and address provided)

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